Wednesday, March 9, 2016

#Historical Fiction Review - The Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry (Pagan Jones # 1)

Series: Pagan Jones # 1
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Source: Library
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction

Pagan Jones went from America’s sweetheart to fallen angel in one fateful night in 1960: the night a car accident killed her whole family. Pagan was behind the wheel and driving drunk. Nine months later, she’s stuck in the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by her guilt—not to mention the sadistic Miss Edwards, who takes special delight in humiliating the once-great Pagan Jones. 

But all of that is about to change. Pagan’s old agent shows up with a mysterious studio executive, Devin Black, and an offer. Pagan will be released from juvenile detention if she accepts a juicy role in a comedy directed by award-winning director Bennie Wexler. The shoot starts in West Berlin in just three days. If Pagan’s going to do it, she has to decide fast—and she has to agree to a court-appointed “guardian,” the handsome yet infuriating Devin, who’s too young, too smooth, too sophisticated to be some studio flack. 

The offer’s too good to be true, Berlin’s in turmoil and Devin Black knows way too much about her—there’s definitely something fishy going on. But if anyone can take on a divided city, a scheming guardian and the criticism of a world that once adored her, it’s the notorious Pagan Jones. What could go wrong?

*Key Characters* Pagan Jones, Devin Black, Thomas Kruger

The Notorious Pagan Jones is the first chapter in Nina Berry's Pagan Jones series. 16-year old Pagan Jones was once an up and coming actress who had a bright future ahead of her. She won a Golden Globe award and a British Academy Film Award (BAFA). She could have been the next Marilyn Monroe if she had kept her head on straight. But, that was before her mother Eva died, which led her to become a major alcoholic, which lead her to driving her car that killed her remaining family; her father and younger sister Ava. 

Sentenced to TWO years at the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by the sadistic Miss Edwards, Pagan is offered a second chance at redemption, and perhaps more by her studio heads. Pagan is offered the part in a comedic movie called "Neither Here Nor There" directed by the famous Bennie Wexler who she knows very well. But, of course there are catches. First, she has to travel to Berlin immediately where the show is being filmed. Second, she has to travel under the "guardianship" of Devin Black who isn't much older than she is and has his own agenda. 

Finally, she can't have one drop of alcohol under any circumstances or she loses her opportunity to prove that she's worth taking a chance on. Easy Peasy, Right? Yeah, not so much. Especially after she has to confront her ex who has moved on without her. Especially when she finds herself as a reluctant yet capable spy. Pagan also gets the rare opportunity to look into her own family's background, especially her mother and grandmother while in Berlin. There is so much secrecy surrounding Eva Pagan that I dare say that I am looking forward to the next installment to see if Berry enlightens readers into what actually happened to her, and why.

Let me gush about the realism of this story. I adore that Berry took this story to Berlin where my own father served during the Korean War. I grew up with my dad's stories, as well as my own love for history, and my time in the military. Berry puts her characters in the middle of realistic events and doesn't hold back the danger that faces them at each turn. Living in Berlin wasn't at all easy for anyone outside of the Communist Party. Thousands of East Germans flooded into West Berlin to get away from the communist regime of Walter Ulbricht that was nearly as oppressive as Stalin's.

Berlin was a city divided into sections by former allies the USA, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. It was Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev against US President John F. Kennedy. It was a time when school children everywhere drilled daily in hopes that we could survive a nuclear war. If you want to do your own research to test out my statements, please do. If you are younger than 30, thank the Lord and your parents that we didn't blow the world up!

This story takes place 8 months before baby Shelley came into the world. Shocking as that may be, but it's true! I lived through the Cold War, I even served in the military during this period. For Berry to take Pagan and put her into a role of being a down and out actress trying to regain her swag and her self-esteem and then tossing her into the middle of one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, the building of the Berlin War that took everyone for surprise was amazing. I will absolutely recommend this book to everyone even with Pagan's weaknesses, and her past actions. There is such as thing as forgiveness, even if it means forgiving yourself for past mistakes.

The second installment in this series is called City of Spies. The book will release last this year. I look forward to closing certain aspects of THIS story. I want to find out more about Pagan's own mother and why she died. 

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